April 2016

A sadder sight is seldom seen
Faded glory that might have been
Spring’s delight bent and down
Felled by winter’s belated frown
— George Baum

Photo of daffodil broken and frozen by snowfall
Felled by winter’s belated frown. Photo: George Baum

4/1     We were on the Highland Trail in early morning, from the Walkway over the Hudson to the underpass for Route 9W, when we came upon a standoff: A feral black-and-white cat and a turkey vulture were each eying a dead opossum. Each time the vulture flapped its large wings, the cat backed off, until finally it gave up and walked away. On our way back along the trail we saw another turkey vulture had joined the first and together they had made good progress on disposing of the carcass.  — Sue Mackson, Annette Caruso

4/1     The black flies were biting today, but after the chill of March it was worth tolerating them for the warm humid air they thrive in.

4/3     What a difference a day makes: We had a fresh spring snowstorm today followed by incredible, fierce winds with gusts up to 50 miles as hour.

4/4     The late season snow brought with it an eastern towhee that spent the day scratching about under one of my bird feeders. It didn’t seem bothered by the juncos, cowbirds, and other ground birds feeding on the seed. The striking colors of the towhee stood out against the snow.  — Connie Mayer-Bakall

4/5     An overnight temperature of 21° Fahrenheit, coupled with six inches of snow over the past two days and a 25 mph northwest wind (windchill was +3°) brought visions of ice fishing to mind. Except that this would have been even too cold for ice fishing. In the wake of the Arctic blast that enveloped the valley, the river temperature had dropped from the high to low 40s. Such dramatic drops in water temperature can put an immediate halt to migratory fish such as shad, herring and glass eels.  — Tom Lake

4/6     Still ice on the steps today. Will spring ever come?

4/7     I listened for the calls of the first warblers to return. Pine, palm, blue-winged and yellow warblers return this month. Just before dawn the bird orchestra heralds the sun.

4/11     Rain and chill for morning, sun and warmth for midday, rain by evening. A mixed bag of weather. For those brief warm hours, the honeybees exploded out of the hives. They must have been so happy to be outside after ten days of cold.

4/12     Tonight I drove along Horsepond Road and right after the pond on the right a fox crossed in front of my car. Instead of disappearing into the brush as foxes usually do, it stopped on top of a rock for the longest time! I thought, “How lucky we are to live in such an awesome place!”  — Terry Joyce

4/13     I saw my first female bumblebee out of her winter cavern in the ground and cruising the leaf litter. She was looking for a suitable nest for this year’s brood. I was at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx where many things are blooming, but it was a reminder to watch for the lady bumblebees in Kent – soon!

4/14     The yellow-bellied sapsuckers are drumming. Their knocks on the trees are quite distinct: slow enough to count each peck, with a little twist in the cadence half-way through. Sapsuckers, with typical roller coaster flight and black and white markings, look like any small woodpeckers. But at the right angle you can catch a glimpse of yellow. The best identifier however is its distinctive, slow drum beat.

4/16     The wildflower hunt was disappointing today, but there was a fun surprise. While crossing a (very) dry creek bed, I almost stepped on a snake. Primitive, paralyzing fear gave way to delight at such a handsome creature. A newly emerged northern water snake stretched out before me, with red belly-bands and shiny skin.

Photo of northern water snake (Nerodia sipedon) on leaf litter
“You’re big and scary,” said the snake, “I hope you won’t hurt me.” Photo: Beth Herr

4/17     White violets and wild strawberries are flowering in my yard. Round-leaved yellow violets in the woods. And insect populations are building. Clover looper and brown-shaded carpet moths are both flying.  — John D.T.

4/17     Things are growing quickly. The KCAC’s annual spring Wildflower Walk was held at Clough Preserve today. I “pre-walked” it yesterday and saw not one flower. Today there were trout lilies, trilliums, and violets! It changed so much overnight.

Photo of wood anemone (Anemone quinquefolia)
Daughter of the wind. Photo: Dave Ehnebuske

Photo of a large group of wood anemone(Anemone quinquefolia)
We all nod together when the wind blows. Photo: Dave Ehnebuske

4/18     First 80° day of the season and the green lace is appearing in the woodlands. The ferns are unrolling, bloodroot leaves curl round their delicate flowers, and bluebells blush first pink then cobalt.

Photo of Bluebell (Mertensia virginica) flower buds
You think we’re ephemeral, but that’s because you only see us when we show off for the butterflies. Photo: Beth Herr

Photo of bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) in flower showing how the leaves embrace the flower buds
Let me give my flower a big hug. Photo: Beth Herr

4/19     For a few weeks now, a pair of eastern bluebirds had been active in patrolling and nest-building at a nest box in my backyard. Today, however, while the female was perched on a limb of a black walnut tree, the male bluebird brought her a tasty choice larva (species unknown). After the feeding, the male moved a short distance away. There was something in the air, I’d say.

Ed. note: Here is more info on bluebirds from Naturally Curious with Mary Holland: “Females build their nest over several days. Grasses and pine needles are gathered from the ground and delivered to the nest box. Fine grasses, horse hair and turkey feathers often provide the soft, innermost lining of the nest. While the male enters the box during the nest-building process, perhaps to inspect, he does not actively collect material or participate in the building of the nest. Once the 3 – 7 eggs are laid, the female spends the next two weeks or so incubating them. She then broods the young for about a week, and both parents provide them with food for up to three weeks after the young have fledged.”

4/19     First trill of the toads today, sunny, mild and breezy all day. The forest is decorated with green-yellow lace.

4/19     Fire season – NY State issued “red flag” fire warnings. Lack of rain (and lack of winter snow melt), high winds, and dry hillsides with lots of downed timber can make a spark spread to an inferno. Even though things are greening up and a fire seems unlikely, land managers are on high alert.

4/20     A cool morning followed by warm sunshine and soft breezes was so welcome and beautiful. Spring is quickening with yellow-green coloring the landscape and new bird song every morning. The nesting geese call before the cardinal, and, by afternoon, pine warblers trill in the evergreens. Another spring to see. What a gift.

Photo of black birch (Betula lenta) catkins with a backdrop of a calm pond surface
Serenity at Laurel Pond. Photo: Dave Ehnebuske

4/21     Rain was predicted but storms just skirted Kent. A brief, warm thunderstorm at day’s end brought minimal rain. Sigh.

4/22     I made the annual foray up to Bull’s Bridge in hopes of finding hepatica in bloom. Despite the cool temps, the brave, fuzzy-stemmed flowers nodded toward the sun and took my breath away.

Photo of Hepatica (Hepatica nobilis) in bloom at the foot of a tree
“Hepatica nobilis” is so much nicer than “liverwort,” don’t you think? Photo: Beth Herr

4/23     You can’t help but love the spring season. Especially if there are obstacles in your path. The very fact of spring, its inevitable, predictable, magical rebirth offers renewal and hope, new beginnings, starting over and second chances. You can’t help but see this when you witness green shoots pushing up out of the seemingly barren ground. Couple that with the incredible artistry wrought by Ms. Mother Nature when showing off the early stages of her creations, the ones that precede the ultimate displays which are much more familiar to us.

Below I’ve captured one of these harbingers found in my backyard yesterday. A fern about to be unfurled. Revealed with a macro lens that digs a little deeper, moves in a little closer to glimpse these little early miracles of shape and form and color. Albert Einstein suggested that if you look deep into nature, you will understand everything better. I would only add that getting there early adds to the comprehension, and wonder, and promise.  — Charles Daviat

Photo of fiddlehead fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) frond still rolled up
A little early miracle of shape and form and color. Photo: Charles Daviat

4/26     Finally a quarter inch of rain fell, and finally the ground was watered. Just yesterday, brush fires were burning in the nearby Shawangunks. Sam’s Point was afire.

4/26     We’ve been hearing the screech of foxes the last few nights as they defend their den and territory from the “invading” resident coyote pack. It’s been nothing but yips, yowls, barks, and howls, for hours every night outside our bedroom windows. Our resident beaver family is sticking close to their lodge it seems, and our Spookycat is, well, very spooked by all those noises in the night. He is sticking to us like glue.  — John Askildsen

4/28     This has been a month of watching how plants are dealing with the weather fluctuations: the warm winter – so far the hottest year ever recorded – and the off-and-on spring. A second round of little green leaves tells us that our old lilac shrub is going to be with us a while longer, but only one cluster of flowers survived. A fountain of green and the first lovely pink little hearts have come up, hiding the bleeding hearts’ earlier attempt taken by frost.

Now that warblers are returning – black-throated green, ovenbird and water thrush so far – we’re enjoying pretty much the full bird complement: the perky little chipping sparrows, an occasional white-crowned sparrow, towhees, bluebirds, flickers and pileated woodpeckers and the goldfinches – really golden. Turkey vultures soar overhead and cowbirds feed on our newly seeded lawn. All accompanied by the steady rat-tat-tat of the sapsucker drum band. Grey tree frogs are trilling.

And, by the way, we have had a little family “discussion” on the subject of the birds’ return: Bruce maintaining the warm weather brought them back early, when it’s actually daylight length acting on their hormones that tells southern birds to get on the road or, rather, into the air.  — Doris Balant

4/30     I had a great show outside my kitchen window. A tom turkey was putting on quite a colorful display to a female, who didn’t seem all that interested (could have been a NYC bar scene).  — Tore Heaskestead

Photo of a male wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) displaying
I’m not doing this for you humans, you know. Photo: Tore Heaskestead

In May

  • Watch for the blossoms of dogwoods, columbine (and thus, returning hummingbirds), lady slippers and pinxter azaleas in the forest
  • Don’t miss the full Flower Moon on May 21
  • Listen for the rich, melodious dawn chorus of birds and the trill of the toads, followed by the snore of the pickerel frogs, then, at last, the plunk of the green frogs. Before a rain, or on very humid days the grey tree frogs call.
  • Be alert for migratory butterflies and dragonflies to return by month’s end
  • See the ash trees come late to leaf, the black locust burst into bloom and our fruit trees put on a show to attract pollinators

Photo of ice forming between sedge and moss clumps
Geometry in nature. Photo: Beth Herr

Kent Nature Almanac Photo Competition

Grab your camera and capture the nature of Kent. Send your best images to enter a juried photo competition. The winning photos will be exhibited at the Kent Public Library for the month of December and will be included in the Kent Nature Almanac. Beautiful scenery is easy to find in our town. Abundant biodiversity awaits in Kent’s lakes, cliffs, forests and backyards. Focus your camera and capture the beauty.

A maximum of three submissions per photographer will be considered for the show. They will be judged on artistic merit and how they express an aspect of nature in Kent. Explain where and why you took the photos. Recommended photo size: 1920 x 2400 pixels or larger.

Send to: herrszur@comcast.net

There is time to capture a winning image in the three coming seasons. The deadline for submitting images for the contest is October 31, 2016.